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Top 14 - Round 19 review
Subs fuel Toulouse fightback
ESPNscrum Staff
February 19, 2011

Toulouse underlined their Top 14 title credentials as they came from behind to beat Biarritz 23-19 in their clash at the Stade Ernest Wallon on Saturday.

The reigning European champions, without a number of French internationals, were trailing 19-13 with 17 minutes remaining, but a try from replacement Jean Marc Doussain along with the conversion and a penalty from Nicolas Bezy ensured they maintained their cushion at the top of the table.

The visitors were 10-0 up within minutes after former England international Iain Balshaw scored a try which was converted by Julien Peyrelongue, who had already nailed a penalty. But Toulouse fought back with a try from Cedric Heymans, who was playing at fullback with Fijian duo Vilimoni Delasau and Rupeni Caucaunibuca on the wings, and a conversion and two penalties from fly-half Federic Michalak.

Peyrelongue, who was taking on the kicking duties in the absence of France scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili, added another three penalties to edge Biarritz ahead again. But replacements Marc Doussain and Bezy had the final words to preserve Toulouse's seven-point advantage.

Racing Metro did their best to maintain the pressure on Toulouse with a 32-24 victory over La Rochelle. Fly-half Jonathan Wisniewski scored 22 points with six penalties and two conversions after tries from No.8 Jacques Cronje and Henry Chavancy. La Rochelle fullback Benjamin Dambielle did his best to drag the hosts back into the game, scoring all of their points with a converted try and four penaltie, but Racing Metro were well clear when Norman Ligairi crossed for a late consolation.

Jonny Wilkinson's return to Top 14 action failed to inspire Toulon as they fell to a surprise 23-13 defeat to Agen. The fly-half was released by England for the break in the Six Nations, but he could only contribute two penalties and a conversion as the highly backed French side lost to struggling Agen. Tries from flankers Adri Badenhorst and Jean Monribot that were converted by Conrad Barnard, who also grabbed an early penalty, gave the hosts a 20-6 advantage at the break.

Toulon could not take advantage of the sin-binning of Saimoni Vaka before the break, but did hit back through a Matt Henjak try 15 minutes from time. Wilkinson's conversion took the visitors to within seven but a further penalty from Barnard ended their hopes of a comeback.

Marc Andreu scored a brace of tries as Castres dented Montpellier's ambitions with a 43-29 win at the Stade Pierre-Antoine. The French international winger crossed twice in the first half as the hosts established a narrow 23-19 advantage at the break with prop Yannick Forestier also touching down and fullback Romain Teulet adding the conversion and two penalties. Tries from Martin Bustos Moyana, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Mickael Ladhuie and Pierre Berard kept Montpellier in the game but Castres surged away again late on with a penalty try while Teulet took his total to 18 points.

Clermont Auvergne rebounded from last weekend's defeat to Montpellier with a tight 24-19 victory over Bayonne. The visitors had accelerated into a 10-0 lead after 16 minutes with wing Joe Pietersen's converted try adding to a Benjamin Boyet penalty. But Clermont hit back with tries from Gonzalo Canale and Benoit Baby, along with a conversion and three penalties from fly-half Brock James, while Bayonne could only muster a further three penalties from Boyet.

Stade Francais' poor form continued in the Top 14 as they slumped to their ninth defeat of the season on Friday night, going down 26-10 to Brive. Stade, who were without Six Nations stars such as James Haskell and Sergio Parisse, outscored their opponents two tries to one at the Stade Amedee-Domenech, but they paid for their indiscipline as Julien Caminati kicked four penalties and Mathieu Belie two as Brive recorded only their fifth win of a difficult campaign.

Former Newcastle and England Sevens flyer Ollie Philips gave Stade an early lead but the combined kicking efforts of Caminati, who was one of three players to be sin-binned, and Belie forged the hosts ahead. By the time Djibril Camara had grabbed Stade's second try late on, Antonie Claassen's score for the hosts had sealed the win.

Fullback Jerome Porcial scored 20 points as Perpignan overcame bottom side Bourgoin 32-15 at the Stade Pierre Rajon. Porical converted Julien Candelon's early try before adding six penalties as they moved ahead of Stade Francais in the table. Gaetan Germain was on target with five penalties for the hosts but Candelon converted a penalty try to condemn Bourgoin their 17th defeat of the Top 14 season.

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